Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


Mixed cliches are nothing unusual for journalists, but the interview this morning on Deutschlandfunk with their Brussels correspondent about the EU stance toward the current protests in the Ukraine, and the failure of democracy there, offered an unusually innovative abuse of cliché.

Speaking of the negotiated association treaty that has already been negotiated between the EU and Ukraine, she says

Die Tür bleibt offen. Die Bedingungen, dass durch diese offene Tür gegangen werden kann… die bleiben die gleichen.

The door is open. The conditions for being permitted to pass through the door remain as they were.

Now, in reality I could have an open door — the front door of my house, say — and nonetheless impose conditions for people being allowed to pass through the door. (In Texas I might even be permitted to shoot people who pass through the open door.) But is a metaphorical open door with conditions still an open door? Is the “open door” in this sentence actually serving any function? Perhaps it is best described as a “hurdle”. Or she might have said, the door to finalising this agreement has been shut, until certain conditions have been met.

I imagine some further applications of this principle:

Yes, this issue is a hot potato. But no one minds grasping it, because it happens to be sheathed in asbestos.

The jury is still out on that… But it has already delivered its verdict in writing.

He is on Death’s doorstep. Fortunately, it appears that Death is currently subletting the property to a less lethal tenant just now.

Comments on: "New functions for old clichés: Conditions for passing through an open door" (2)

  1. […] For German self-deconstructing political clichés see here. […]

  2. […] have commented before (here and here) on the weird linguistic phenomenon of clichés being modified to eliminate their actual […]

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